tip for moving #5

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If you’re a closet food hoarder like I am, you should probably start paying attention to what’s in your pantry right about now. If you’re moving in less that three weeks, you should probably start cleaning out your pantry. Starting yesterday.

I grew up in the country, several miles outside of the town in which I went to school and at least half an hour any direction from the nearest large grocery store. We had to drive 30 minutes one way to get to Walmart, 40 minutes another way to reach Hart’s or Price Cutter or Harter Haus, and if we needed bulk or specialty items — well, that was an hour and a half, at least.

Understandably, I learned to hoard pantry items. When it’s a Saturday afternoon and you need homemade chocolate chip cookies but have no butter or chocolate chips, there is no change-out-of-sweatpants-and-drive-to-the-store spontaneity because that would take at least an hour, and then where are those cookies? So, we stockpiled. (Interestingly enough, this is also how I learned to experiment and substitute so freely in the kitchen. My creative mother was judicious in her cooking experiments — I learned from the best.)

Fast-forward ten years and I’m within walking distance of the farmers market and just a short drive from the commissary or my favorite grocery store. I don’t have to stockpile because I can easily pick up some canned tomatoes or a rasher of bacon any afternoon I might need it, no long-term planning required. And yet.

I hoard canned tomatoes in my pantry and rashers of bacon in my freezer. I have little tins of hatch peppers and bulk jars of jasmine rice and gluten-free oats and a couple bags of seaweed and canned tuna and olives and coconut milk and all sorts of things stored away, like a little chipmunk saving up for winter hibernation. Which is all well and good was I living with said stocked pantry for another couple of months, which I am not. Take it from me, friends — it is better to start cleaning out early and buy what you need later in the proper amount than to be saddled with too many jars and cans.

To begin, make a list of all of the dry goods and frozen items you have. Take stock of the perishables in the refrigerator and, with list in hand, start brainstorming meal-planning ideas. You’ll save money, get creative in the kitchen, and prevent wastefulness.

Got a half a bag of frozen peas just hanging out? Throw those bad boys into a pot of soup. What do two boxes of crushed tomatoes, a can of pumpkin puree and a jar of broth have in common? They are an excellent base for chili. Coconut milk added to ground meat and veggies and a dash of curry powder makes for an easy ethnic meal. Green tomato relish add pizzaz to daily scrambled eggs, and don’t forget those olives! You should probably just eat those as a snack, plucked from the jar with your fingers.

My pantry/freezer inventory includes:

bulk gluten-free oats, steel-cut oats, buckwheat groats

jasmine rice

sugar

tapioca starch

dried shiitake mushrooms

onion jam

balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar

green tomato salsa

dried seaweed

carob powder, cacao powder

flaxseeds

frozen Ezekiel bread, coconut granola

tahini, Siracha, homemade mayo and all the condiments ever

aged parmesan

frozen vegetables + fruit

canned crushed tomatoes

coconut milk

2 tins hatch peppers

Castelvetrano olives

salmon filets, ground lamb, ground turkey

1 rasher of bacon

frozen homemade waffles

And I know this sounds like an absolute mess of items — one of these things is not like the other — but it is actually quite easy to meal-plan from my kitchen. Some ideas include:

turkey chili with canned tomatoes, hatch peppers, frozen green peppers

lamb coconut curry with frozen bell peppers, peas, broccoli

seared salmon with garlicky aioli (homemade mayo)

fruit smoothies with frozen mango, blueberries, coconut milk

chicken thighs with shiitake mushrooms + fish sauce

brinner: eggs, bacon, waffles

Thankfully, we have neighbors on either side who will gladly profit from any incomplete meal-planning. Those random jars of oatmeal and the half-open jars of hot sauce and the uneaten chocolate ice cream and the orphan frozen pizza will all get new homes. They won’t be wasted, and at least I can say I tried.

SONY DSCBraised “Everything-In-The-Pantry” Turkey Chili

1.5 lbs. ground turkey

two 4 oz. tins of Hatch peppers

5 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 c. broth

28 oz. can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. ancho chili powder

2 tsp. sea salt

fresh black pepper

dash of cayenne

1 Tbsp. cumin

1 tsp. fish sauce

1 c. chopped green bell pepper

2 pints Sungold tomatoes

In a large, oven-proof, heavy bottomed pot with a lid, brown the turkey. While the meat is cooking, smash and peel garlic and set aside. Season the turkey with salt, pepper and spice, and continue to brown until cooked through. Stir in the canned peppers, fish sauce and tomatoes, and bring to a vigorous simmer. Mince the garlic and add to the chili, along with the broth, bell peppers and whole Sungold tomatoes. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. After the chili has reached a boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot and transfer the chili to the oven to braise for an hour and a half. Stir occasionally. After the time has elapsed, increase the heat to 350 degrees and allow the chili to reduce uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes.

whole30: in conclusion

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My Whole30 challenged ended on Monday. Although I wasn’t 100% percent compliant for all of my Whole30 (I mentioned those rogue cookies), I was gluten-, dairy-, grain-, legume- and alcohol-free for 30 days.

I feel lighter, clearer and more in touch with both how I react to food and what triggers my cravings. I’ve lost a couple inches around my waist and feel more capable in the gym and on the trails. My sleep has been excellent, my skin is clearing up, and I no longer feel attachment to the treats I was dreaming about ten days ago. My mood has been more stable and PMS symptoms haven’t been so severe. I’ve had more energy and more of a positive outlook.

It wasn’t easy. There were a few times when I thought that I should just quit in the middle — what’s the point of this silly challenge? — but in the end I’m glad I stuck it out and made the full 30 days. Now I can see the other side of the coin, that in reality it also wasn’t that hard. Again, although I wasn’t “paleo perfect,” I feel an immense sense of accomplishment for sticking with something for an entire month. Doing a Whole30 is certainly about your health and the food you put in your mouth, but more than that I think it’s an exercise in discipline and self-control. Much like a spiritual fast, it represents the denial of momentary pleasure for a long-term payoff.

That being said, I find myself in more of a relaxed mental state now that the 30 days are over. I started to feel a little crazy, trapped with in the confines of the “rules,” and it made me greedy and grabby. I’m hoping I can transition back into normalcy without the mental restrictions yet while still maintaining the good habits I learned in the month.

I learned that I am addicted to sugar. I crave something sweet in the afternoons, in the evenings, or I reach for a treat whenever things get tough. I did not slay the sugar dragon during this Whole30; in fact, it may have gotten worse while doing this challenge as I wasn’t “allowed” sugar and therefore sought out more natural alternatives at every turn.

I learned that I am a stress-muncher and a mindless eater, and it is far too easy for me to disappear a bag of plantain chips without even realizing it while watching an episode of Parks & Rec. When I’m worried or anxious or busy or on a deadline, I grab handful after handful of whatever is lying around, and in devouring it I pay no attention to satiety or taste. The action of snacking is soothing, for some reason, and that quieting is all I pursue.

picnic

I don’t snack because I’m hungry, usually. I snack because I’m bored, lonely, sad, anxious, annoyed, or have too much to do and don’t know where to start. I’m using physical inputs to try and satisfy a larger emotional need, and that, my friends, is where disordered eating comes into play. Challenges like the Whole30 are a great litmus test, removing us from our comfort zone and applying pressure and sting to see what kind of person comes out on the other end.

I found that I stopped missing breakfast treats like pancakes and waffles, and I feel my best eating a ton of veggies. Out of all of my sugary demons, dark chocolate was still what I missed the most. I think that’s okay. But, the cherry on top was how much I lamented my lost cocktails and glasses of wine.

Making a new cocktail every week or so was a fun ritual that Andrew and I would enjoy together — that, or picking out a bottle of wine and having a glass with dinner. Across the month we had several social occasions in which we’d meet friends at a bar or have drinks with food at a cookout or a movie night. It was surprisingly easy to navigate these situations, as I declared myself the designated driver and made sure to bring a bottle of kombucha with me for sipping. The fizz and the gentle sweetness helped me feel like I wasn’t missing out on the drinking. Now, I can tell that I run lighter without alcohol in my system, and I certainly sleep better without it. I don’t miss beer and would prefer not to drink it anymore. But all that to say: I’m looking forward to my next Maker’s Mark on the rocks, a gin & tonic, or a dirty martini sometime this weekend.

My post-Whole30 plan is this: keep going. Continue to avoid grains, gluten, dairy, legumes and sugar. Seek moderation in my dark chocolate indulgences. Have a cocktail once in a while. Celebrate Andrew’s upcoming birthday with homemade brownies. Relax. Settle into a rhythm. Congratulate myself on a job well done.

And then have a handful of my favorite snack, completely guilt-free. Yum.

apple pie a la mode pudding for Paleo Magazine

SONY DSCI’m not kidding when I say that this tastes frighteningly like apple pie — without any of the sugar, flour or other additives that mar the flavor of a perfect apple. This easy snack is crazy good. Head on over Paleo Magazine online to get the recipe and read more about the versatility of this dish.

an anniversary dinner

SONY DSCYesterday was the first anniversary of our wedding.

With our first, I hadn’t a clue what to expect. But as with most every occasion I went with my default — food.

At the store I bought an expensive load of groceries, much fancier than our usual fare. White hydrangeas and a couple bottles of wine, a flat of raspberries like wee garnets, three pounds of sirloin. When I brought them home and unloaded it all I proceeded to exercise the love language I know how to best express.

First things first: the beginning stages of Julia Child’s classic boeuf bourguignon. Dicing beef, frying bacon, browning batches of the meat, four minutes in the oven, stirring, four minutes in the oven, then pouring with reckless abandon from a bottle of red wine (“young and fullbodied”). In goes a faggot of savory herbs, some crushed garlic cloves, tomato paste and homemade beef broth, to be sealed with the meat and wine in a hot oven at a moderate temperature, emerging three hours later full of steam and juices and rich aromas.

Then wrapping tiny smoked oysters in strips of bacon, to slowly crisp up alongside the boeuf for our appetizer course, and clipping away the spiny leaves of the artichokes I picked up on a whim.

Whipping plumes of powdered sugar and vanilla into coconut cream, caramelizing pearl onions and shiitake mushrooms, arranging a cheese course with sliced radishes, pouring champagne. All steam and heat and crumbs akimbo, my apron over my dress and a scarf keeping my hair back from my face.

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I like to do this dance alone in the kitchen, where I’m free to time the next act in accordance to the thousand little measurements taken with a taste here, a skillet toss there.

In the end I am the master of the symphony, solely responsible for the failure or the success of my creation. My favorite solitary task means little if it can’t be shared. And so at the end of my conducting, all there was in the kitchen was a plate of stew, low candles, the hydrangeas I’d bought and the yellow daisies he gave me, a crust of bread, a satisfied sigh.

All the work is nothing without that sigh. If what I create doesn’t satisfy hunger it is meaningless — not just a physical emptiness to be quenched with something to chew, but a deeper hunger of connection, of warmth, of love in the tangible form of something delicious.

My wish for my marriage is simple: May we always be hungry, and always be able to feed each other well, wholesomely.

Artichokes with Herbed “Aioli”

2 whole fresh artichokes

peppercorns, a bay leaf, a whole garlic clove

2 Tbsp. mustard

1 Tbsp. grassfed ghee (clarified butter)

1 tsp. coarse sea salt, fresh black pepper

1 Tbsp. champagne vinegar

generous handfuls of whatever fresh herbs available

extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor, combine the mustard, ghee, seasonings, vinegar and herbs into a smooth paste. Any herbs would be excellent here, but I used a few fistfuls of flat-leafed parsley, thyme, French tarragon (my favorite!), and some little leaves plucked from my baby basil plant. Whizz this all together and drizzle in olive oil until smooth and emulsified.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, boil enough water to cover artichokes. Rinse artichokes under running water to dislodge any dirt from the leaves, taking care to avoid the spiny edges. Chop off the stem and about a third of the top of the artichoke, and with kitchen scissors clip the sharp leaves away.

When water is boiling, submerge artichokes, bay leaf, garlic, peppercorns and a little salt, bring back to a rolling bubble, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until artichoke leaves are tender. Drain and cool, and serve with herbed sauce for dipping.

Relish the juices running down your arm and the visceral nature of tearing at the leaves with your teeth. You can be civilized when the next course arrives.

celebrating St. Patrick’s day

This weekend we celebrated with some Guinness extra stout and some delicious, albeit not exactly traditional, Irish food. I spent an entire afternoon baking chocolate stout cupcakes, filling them with an Irish whisky ganache and spreading Irish cream frosting on top. They were dangerous in that they were delicious and difficult to stop eating after just one, but also because the whisky flavor intensified after a day in their container — one bite could knock you down for the count.

And I devoted the whole week to brining my own corned beef to serve with stewed cabbage for Sunday night dinner, a tradition that dates back in my family as long as I can remember. Every St. Patrick’s Day my mother would cook corned beef with cabbage, potatoes and carrots, and we’d eat it alongside a glass of milk dyed green, which I think was a ploy to get me to drink my milk at least one day out of the year. This time I took the tradition into my own hands — no green milk in sight — and started from scratch with a beef brisket and let it soak in a mixture of whey, celery juice and pickling spice for five days in the fridge, turning it to soak evenly every night. The end result was the most delicious corned beef I’ve ever eaten, with plenty of leftovers available for corned beef hash the next morning.

Corned Beef and Cabbage
Cure a 2-3 lb. beef brisket according to this recipe. I used leftover whey from a jar of Bubbie’s pickles, homemade celery juice, and a small bottle of pickling spice in a large casserole dish that I covered with foil and refrigerated for five days. 

1 beef brisket, home-cured
1 head of cabbage, washed and sliced
1/2 c. homemade beef broth
2 cloves of garlic, smashed

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse brisket and pat dry after removing from brine, and depending on the size of your cooking pan slice in half or in thirds. In a medium Dutch oven, layer broth, chopped cabbage and smashed garlic before laying brisket on top. Cover and bake for 4 hours, or until browned and tender.

Remove brisket from Dutch oven when cooked through and allow to rest on a cutting board before slicing. Serve on a bed of braised cabbage with sauerkraut, a fresh green salad and a glass of Irish beer.

Corned Beef Hash

Slice leftover beef into cubes and saute in reserved beef fat with leftover cabbage. Add beef broth to pan as necessary. Remove once heated through and crispy/saucy as desired, wipe out the pan, and fry 4 eggs in a little butter. Serve over corned beef hash with a steaming mug of Irish tea.

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Irish Carbomb Cupcakes

Chocolate cupcakes:
1/2 c. coconut flour
1/2 c. Dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
8 eggs
1/2 c. melted coconut oil
1/4 c. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. vanilla extract
splash of strong coffee or pinch of espresso powder
1/2 c. chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips (Enjoy Life)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and put chocolate in a heat-proof bowl in the oven to slowly melt. In a small bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Pulse wet ingredients to combine in a food processor, then add in dry ingredients and, eventually, melted chocolate. Pour into greased muffin tins and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Irish whisky ganache:
4 oz. chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
6 Tbsp. milk
2 Tbsp. Irish whisky

In a saucepan, bring milk to a boil, then pour over reserved chocolate in a bowl. Let stand until soft, then stir in whisky and set aside. After cupcakes have cooled, carve out an indention in the middle of each and fill with ganache. Let rest in the fridge until solidified.

Irish cream frosting:
1/2 c. butter (Kerrygold)
1/4 c. solid coconut oil
2 1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. Dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. espresso powder
1 tsp. molasses
3 Tbsp. Irish whisky

In a food processor, cream together butter and oil. Pulse in the rest of the ingredients and beat until fluffy and solidified. Spread over cupcakes and serve with a wink.

sun-dried tomato sauce

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SONY DSCI was craving something savory and a little more pungent than our usual slow-simmered red wine tomato sauce. This thick sauce made from sun-dried tomatoes seemed to have extra flavor — it must be something about the power of the sun. Harnessed to dry the Roma tomatoes, the tomato flavor is concentrated, so sweet and acidic at the same time, all packed into these little wrinkly red slivers of summer.

The flavor of the sauce is strong, so timid tomato lovers beware. Best pared with more savory items, like meatballs and aged Parmesan, this sauce is just enough to punch up your typical spaghetti night without straying too far from the original. I made a batch of simple chicken meatballs with dried basil and roasted a spaghetti squash to accompany the sauce, and I’m hoping to get in some more use from the sauce with a roasted vegetable soup or even a sausage-and-egg casserole bake. With something as classic as a tomato sauce, there are many ways to, like the sun, harness its power to your own benefit.SONY DSC

Sun-dried Tomato Sauce

3.5 oz. dry-packed sundried tomatoes

2 c. hot water

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

2-3 Tbsp. dried basil

5 roasted garlic cloves

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

s + p

dash of fish sauce

Soak the tomatoes in the hot water until soft, about 20-30 minutes. Dump the whole thing into a food processor or a high-speed mixer and pulse until combined. Add spices, fish sauce and vinegar, pulse to combine. On a low setting, gradually drizzle in olive oil until the sauce is emulsified.

Eat cold as a dip or spread, or simmer over low heat and pour over spaghetti squash and meatballs.

a bright green smoothie with some help from the bees

SONY DSCIt was one of those weeks where I felt the beginnings of a cold scratching at the back of my throat, hinting at a more powerful attack, for a few days in a row. I woke up with a stuffy head and low energy with no desire to wash the growing stack of dishes or go outside to get in my daily walk along the river. What it was, most likely, was allergies, but I made sure to load up on vitamins, homemade bone broth, echinacea and elderberry extracts and plenty of hot tea before I took my first antihistamine. Before things could get better, they had to get a little worse — and that’s when I turned to this vibrant creation.

I’ve run out of things to call my smoothies. There’s already been one named The Green Monster. Can I call this one Swamp Thing? I need a name that implies health and vibrancy, that suggests it will taste delicious but doesn’t try to hide the fact that there is wheatgrass in there…wheatgrass that tastes a little earthy and not at all like a milkshake. Vitamin C Swamp Monster of Health & Wellness. Is that a good smoothie name?

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I started with kale, and added plenty of Vitamin C with frozen fruit and fresh lemon juice. A little ice and coconut water was enough to blend everything smoothly with a touch of sweetness, although it was the addition of the earthy wheatgrass that required half of a banana. I’m watching my sugar/fructose intake and so was a little loathe to put the banana in, but it provided just the right amount of creaminess to mask the intensity of the wheatgrass. Topped with some bee pollen, this is a veritable cocktail of nutrients — vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants abound, and it still tastes delicious.

SONY DSCSONY DSCBee pollen is full of good stuff. It comes from the saliva of honeybees, and, like anything involving our own pre-digestive spit, is therefore is chock full of enzymes. It’s high in energy and supplies a complete amino acid profile, plus it’s an excellent complement to the immune system of anyone suffering from allergies. Some of the components of bee pollen have actually been shown to neutralize the body’s histamine response, which can help  naturally alleviate allergies, especially if the pollen is collected locally. Bee pollen and airborne plant pollen are not the same things – one is a byproduct of the kingdom plantae reproductive cycle, and another is a raw food, a byproduct of a natural catalyst. Ah, science and nature. How well the two combine and how amazing our world is.

Anti-Allergy Smoothie

1 c. frozen mango chunks and peaches (half cup each)

2 c. kale, washed + trimmed of stems

8-10 oz. coconut water

lemon juice

ice

Optional:

I packet Amazing Grass Wheatgrass

half a banana

1 tsp. bee pollen

Layer the ingredients in a high-speed blender, starting with the liquid, the kale, and adding the frozen fruit and ice on top. Whir away until smooth and creamy. Sprinkle 1 tsp. bee pollen over your smoothie and enjoy for health and happiness.